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Listserv thread on Statehouse space

March 20, 2007

UPDATED 3/21/07 WITH HAWAII

I’m going to try and cut and paste all of the responses on the listserv to Papa Ray Long’s query about press space in statehouses around the land. Could be a useful archive for someone down the road.

Aaron

ORIGINAL MESSAGE

I’d like to do a quick survey of whether your states provide space for news organizations.

In Illinois, we have a press room in the capitol. Illinois’ capitol architect is overseeing a wing-by-wing overhaul of the Capitol, with the two chambers being renovated to look as they did around 1900. The wing with the press room is in line for renovation sometime in the next year and a half. Although we don’t expect to be booted, we’d like to have on hand information that bolsters our obvious case for keeping a press room in the capitol.

I know some of you have press rooms in your capitols with individual rooms for each news organization. Some have one big pool room, some have private quarters off site, and some have space in buildings adjacent to the Capitol.

I’ll give you a description of ours below, but I’d like for you to answer some quick questions. Please just fill out what you know and reply to RLong111@insightbb.com.

I am the president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association and report for the Chicago Tribune.

Thanks in advance for participating.

Ray Long

NORTH CAROLINA, FROM LAURA LESLIE

>Does your state provide news media organizations with office space? Yes

>Is this space provided rent free? Yes, but we pay for phone lines,
internet access, etc.

>Approx. total square footage, if you know or can roughly guess? hard to
say. Our press room proper is probably around 700-800 sq ft., give or
take – plus there’s a TV studio and offices downstairs for the public TV
folks.

>What is the number of media organizations in your press room or how
many
cover the capitol full time?

Depends. In session, Raleigh News & Observer has 4 plus a columnist,
of which 2-3 might be there any given day. Charlotte Observer – 2 plus
a columnist. Winston salem – 1 plus columnist. 1 each for papers in
Greensboro, Wilmington, Asheville, Fayetteville, Freedom Newspapers. 2
APers, 1 public radio (me), 2 commercial radio. 1 subscription news
service with 3-4 people. 2 public TV. 2 commercial TV guys are there
a lot, 2 others in and out, but they don’t have offices.

So, say 16 outlets – 8 papers, a wire, a private pub, 3 radio stations,
3 – 4 TV stations.

Out of session, it’s much lighter – maybe 10 of us there any given day.
Most have offices outside the building.

>Approx. number of full-time reporters/editors? 20-30 folks in session,
10 out, no editors ever.

>Is this space, if any, located in your Capitol or another state
building? In the Legislature bldg, which isn’t actually the capitol.

>Do you have a formal area for press conferences? Yes.

>Are you located off-site in a private office or co-op with other media?

Print folks have desks along the walls of a long room. 2 of us radio
have closets, AP has one too. Just about all the print folks have
actual office space within a few blocks.

>Does your state provide staffing (full or part time) to assist your
newsroom? No, but they do supply us with one computer with Internet
access and a printer.

>What is the downside to being in a building away from the capitol? n/a

>Comments
After reading Aaron’s description, we Tarheels should stop griping about
our press room.🙂 We’re centrally located (although we have no
windows), and we’re close to everything, including bathrooms and free
(albeit very bad) coffee. We’re also fully wired to both chambers’
audio feeds, plus feeds from the two big committee rooms. The other
committee rooms aren’t wired at all. Our press conference room is much
smaller than Ray’s in IL, – no risers, unusable mic system – but we can
fit into it, and it gets a lot of use.

SOUTH CAROLINA, FROM AARON GOULD SHEININ

Ray, in South Carolina:

Does your state provide news media organizations with office space? Yes

Is this space provided rent free? Yes, although we pay for telephone lines, equipment, etc.

Approx. total square footage, if you know or can roughly guess? 100 sq ft.

What is the number of media organizations in your press room or how many cover the capitol full time? My paper, The State, has 3 full-time; AP has two full-time; Charleston Post & Courier has 1 full-time. Morris News Service has 1 full-time. The Greenville News and The Sun News of Myrtle Beach each have one person who covers the capitol on an irregular basis. TV is more haphazard. Sometimes there’s five or six, sometimes none. Usually at least 1 who is there most of the time.

Approx. number of full-time reporters/editors? 7 reporters/0 editors at the State House

Is this space, if any, located in your Capitol or another state building? In the Capitol

Do you have a formal area for press conferences? No.

Are you located off-site in a private office or co-op with other media? In one little room.

Does your state provide staffing (full or part time) to assist your newsroom? No.

What is the downside to being in a building away from the capitol?

Comments_____Before our State House renovated in the mid-90s, the press room was in a great location on the first floor and was spacious. During the renovation, some lawmakers wanted to eliminate the press room altogether, but ultimately it was moved to the attic. There are no bathrooms, no elevator. It’s on the fourth floor and is about the size of two large phone booths.

VIRGINIA, FROM LORETTA BONITI

Does your state provide news media organizations with
office space? yes

Is this space provided rent free? yes… pay for own
phone, equipt.. (but wireless provided)

Approx. total square footage, if you know or can
roughly guess? 300

What is the number of media organizations in your
press room or how many cover the capitol full time?
12ish

Approx. number of full-time reporters/editors? 2
Fulltime TV bureaus, 2 radio reporters, AP (2
reporters), Richmond Times Dispatch (anywhere from 2-6
reporters), Daily Press-1, Virginian Pilot (3),
Washington Post (2), Fredricksburg Freelance Star-1,
Roanoke Times, — a lot more tv and print during
session

Is this space, if any, located in your Capitol or
another state building? We will soon have three press
locations… in Capitol, in Administraton Building
(where gov’s office is located), and in General
Assembly Building– you choose which one you want.

Do you have a formal area for press conferences?
Several– probably 3 used most frequently– lighting
and mult-box ready

Are you located off-site in a private office or co-op
with other media? on-site

Does your state provide staffing (full or part time)
to assist your newsroom? no in particular– but state
staff is on hand to assist with audio issues and other
problems (and they respond quickly to requests)

What is the downside to being in a building away from
the capitol?–

Comments___Virginia’s capitol is currently being
renovated… Part of that project was a new a
pressroom for the media– A room for print, and a room
for broadcast– as with other press rooms in Capitol
Square, it will have a closed circuit feed from house
and senate at pretty much every desk. Reporters can
choose which press room they want to be in.. (Virginia
Capitol Correspondent Association can take care of any
issues if there is an overflow)
We are allowed on the floor of both the house and
senate– seating is provided in both chambers– and
cameras are allowed on the floor during morning hours.

Not a ton of room for reporters– but plenty for our
needs. We seem to do fine.

MARYLAND, FROM BRYAN SEARS

Rob:

I work for a chain of community weeklies in Maryland and cover the 90-day session in the State House in Annapolis.

Does your state provide news media organizations with office space?

Yes

Is this space provided rent free?

Yes but we pay for phone lines and internet connections. My company installed a high speed internet connection that we allow two other papers to piggyback off of at no cost. One of the papers contributed a wireless router which their IT guy set up and maintains for the three reporters.

Approx. total square footage, if you know or can roughly guess?

I’d estimate the room I work in is approximately 540 square-feet shared with 15 other reporters from other news organizations. Two of the major daily papers here have their own rooms that are much smaller — perhaps a quarter of the size.

What is the number of media organizations in your press room or how many cover the capitol full time?

Yes I have a very small desk in a room shared with about 15 other reporters from around the state. Our room is connected to a second smaller room where two Associated Press reporters work.

Approx. number of full-time reporters/editors?

For my organization, I’m it.

Is this space, if any, located in your Capitol or another state building?

We’re located in the basement of the State House

Do you have a formal area for press conferences?

Not in our room. Some elected officials, like the speaker of the House of Delegates, frequently come in and hold on the record talks. Others hold meetings in their offices or other spaces.

Are you located off-site in a private office or co-op with other media?

N/A

Does your state provide staffing (full or part time) to assist your newsroom?

No

What is the downside to being in a building away from the capitol?

N/A


Comments…

Mostly, it’s a slice of heaven for a political junkie. The biggest issues are mostly aesthetic in nature.


The legislators have access to an “up to the minute” service on all legislation and session agendas. That is locked out to the public unless you are willing to fork over $800 a year (really you’re just paying for the 90-day session).


The public can access some of this material at terminals located throughout the State House complex but it’s not convenient for most reporters.


There is a wireless network in the State House but reporters are not able to access it. I can get my wireless signal from my basement office while sitting one floor above in the House chamber. We can’t get it in the Senate chamber.


Think the most difficult thing is that the room is not in the best condition. Gen. George Washington resigned his commission in the Continental Army in this building and the room most of the press is in has remained much the same since then.


The windows are drafty. We have stacks of old budget and phone books (some three feet high) to block out the breeze.


The room could use a coat of reasonably new paint. Perhaps the fumes would overwhelm some of the odor (probably from the rodents).


Because of the historical nature of our building, all changes require permission from a commission so there’s not a lot of hope of getting paint or carpet but what do you want, it’s free.

COLORADO, FROM CHUCK ASHBY

Does your state provide news media organizations with office space? Yes, but the Colorado Press Association pays business personal property taxes on ofc. furniture, otherwise indv. media outlets pay for equip, etc.

Is this space provided rent free? Yes

Approx. total square footage, if you know or can roughly guess? Two separate press rooms, approx: 400 square feet each.

What is the number of media organizations in your press room or how many cover the capitol full time? Full time: seven. Session only: five more.

Approx. number of full-time reporters/editors? Full time: 10. Session only: eight more.

Is this space, if any, located in your Capitol or another state building? Capitol

Do you have a formal area for press conferences? yes

Are you located off-site in a private office or co-op with other media? co-op

Does your state provide staffing (full or part time) to assist your newsroom? No

What is the downside to being in a building away from the capitol? n/a

Comments_Space is at a premium at the Capitol, but the powers that be here haven’t considered, and aren’t expected to move us out mainly because they like the press coverage they receive. Still, we understand the realities of space and make a point of never to complain about it. When part of the Capitol was under renovations a couple of years ago and the entire 3rd floor was close over the interim, the then House speaker graciously found temporary digs for those of use with offices there. We expect them to do the same when they close parts of the basement and temporarily dislodge the press offices there.

PENNSYLVANIA, FROM JOHN MICEK

The Pennsylvania Capitol press corps has office space in the Capitol. We occupy a suite of offices right off the main rotunda, and have been there since time out of mind. Each news organization has cubicle space. And, right now, we have about 25 or 27 people working there full time.
The Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association is the oldest, continuously organized Capitol press corps in the country. And we have a total membership of about 55-60 that includes print, broadcast and online outlets.

John Micek
The (Allentown) Morning Call
President, Pennsylvania Legislative Correspodents Association.

MICHIGAN, FROM CHRIS CHRISTOFF

Michigan’s Capitol building has a rent-free press room with mailboxes for press releases, etc., and it’s wired for laptop, as a couple telephones. It’s mainly where we hang coats. Only about 150 sq ft.

At one time, until about 16 years ago, there was a press room with a full time press manager who handled press conferences, mail, etc. Associated Press and UPI at the time had full time office space.

AP was booted out of the Capitol about 10 years ago to make room for legislative staff and such

There are four newspaper organizations that cover the Capitol full time – Lansing State Journal, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and Booth Newspapers, which has eight dailies around the state. There’s AP and two subscription news services, Gongwer and MIRS (Michigan Information and Research Services).

Michigan Public Radio and a few other private radio networks cover state government daily.

All news organizations have their own offices off-site in private spaces.

There are several rooms for press conferences in the Capitol. Most House and Senate members are housed in separate buildings a block across the street from the Capitol building.

The minor downside of being outside the Capitol is it just takes a few minutes to get to and from events, meetings, etc. Some of them occur in other buildings anyway.

The plus side is we’re not cloistered and can get out to meet other people more easily. We’re closer to restaurants, decent coffee!

FLORIDA, FROM THE QUEEN LUCY MORGAN
Florida reporters work out of press boxes in the House and Senate but have had no individual office space at the Capitol since the new Capitol building opened in 1978. Our offices are in a building owned by the Press Association about three blocks from the Capitol. (For many years the major news organizations occupied space in the basement of the old capitol)
During session we pretty much set up shop in the two galleries where most the major papers have telephone lines and or wireless connections.

This year the Senate is providing an extra room with wireless available as well as a refrigerator where we can stash our stuff.

From year to year, depending on who is in charge and what they think of us, we have been given access to various toys – television sets, computers, copy machines, refrigerators…

We have about 70 reporters, television types here year round and more during the 60-day session ….so the galleries are often crowded but major daily papers have staked out seats beside telephones we pay for…
One year the Senate charged us for the chairs they put in the gallery but mostly the space comes with chairs. A machine in the house gallery spits out the vote on each bill…

The house has given us wireless access for several years – we installed our own in the senate several years ago.

HAWAII FROM NANCY COOK LAUER

 

Does your state provide news media organizations with office space?  Yes

Is this space provided rent free?  No — we pay going rate

Approx. total square footage, if you know or can roughly guess?  800 sq ft — 4 private offices and an anteroom

What is the number of media organizations in your press room or how many cover the capitol full time?  4 total — 3 FT

Approx. number of full-time reporters/editors? 6

Is this space, if any, located in your Capitol or another state building? basement of the Capitol

Do you have a formal area for press conferences?  no

Are you located off-site in a private office or co-op with other media? no

Does your state provide staffing (full or part time) to assist your newsroom? yes — maintenance & mailroom folks

What is the downside to being in a building away from the capitol? NA

Comments_It is hard to describe the conveneince of being within the Capitol compared to being a block or so away, as in my previous position. The press suite is just across the hall from the House chambers, just down the hall from Senate chambers and close to just about everything else. The hallway chatter is a valuable aid in covering our beat, as is the inhouse audio/video system for hearing rooms. My office is 10×10, and if had a window it would be perfect. ___________________________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

For your information, the Illinois statehouse pressroom is located on the west mezzanine of the Illinois Capitol and was remodeled thirty-one years ago. It is provided rent free to the news media; space is allocated by the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association, which has twenty-two bureau members representing thirty-three full time reporters.

The pressroom is approximately 6,000 square feet and includes the TV newsroom where formal press conferences are held. The room seats forty-five and includes risers and lighting for TV cameras and audio connections for tape recorders recessed into the floor.

Our offices range from as small as seven by nine feet to some as large as twelve by seventeen feet. Some of the larger metro dailies and wire services have their own office space, others share.

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